Yesterday at almost the same time two men who had done a bad thing, one very much worse than the other, used almost identical excuses.

Troubles with the wife is hardly an excuse

In Sydney Paul Douglas Peters, the so-called “Collar bomb hoaxer” was sentenced to 13 years in jail for the 10 hours of sheer terror and year of tough recovery he unleashed on 18-year-old schoolgirl Madeleine Pulver in her family home last year.

In Melbourne champion jokey Damien Oliver copped an 8-month ban from racing after he admitted betting $10,000 against his own ride - a cardinal sin of the track.

Both men cried as their punishments were announced, and it emerged afterwards both men said their actions had taken place during extreme distress over the breakdown or troubled state of their marriages.

According to The Daily Telegraph report of the Peters sentencing:

Earlier in court, Peters started to cry as Judge Zahra spoke of the unravelling his life in the lead up to his crime. The court heard Peters, left “distraught” by the breakdown of his marriage and career trouble, believed “he had lost everything. He told a psychiatrist that he had to find “an ingenious way to trap myself” because he was drinking heavily and knew he needed help. “I had to catch myself out,” the court heard Peters said. “I had to lay evidence along the way to trap myself.”

From down South came this report on Oliver’s stewards hearing from News.com.au:

An emotional Oliver read from a statement in a trembling voice as he told stewards that at the time of the offence in 2010 he was going through serious personal problems and described it as the “worst period of my life”.

“I felt despondent and had lost my belief in my ability as a jockey,” Oliver said. He said he had problems with alcohol and had resorted to binge drinking at that time when his wife had left him and taken their three children with her. “It was a highly stressful time. I feared I would lose my marriage,” he said.

He received psychological treatment and had attended drug and alcohol counselling.

In Peters’ case the judge wasn’t buying it. The sentence speaks for itself, but Judge Peter Zahra said Peters’ elaborate plot was “implemented with precision.”

It’s harder to tell what, if any, impact Oliver’s marriage troubles had on the sympathies of the stewards.

His own lawyer Robert Richter QC told them the bet was “totally out of character”.

According to The Australian:

Richter ... had urged stewards to consider his standing in the sport, his contrition and co-operation and the fact he was receiving treatment at the time of the bet for the issues raised in the hearing when considering a penalty.

It’s not a new phenomenon for people to blame anxiety or addiction for their behaviour, and in many cases it’s perfectly legitimate.

But both of these cases add up to a slight on men, and women, everywhere who are going through tough times.

Their behaviour was not just reckless.

Oliver was a pillar of his industry who broke the rule that protects that industry’s legitimacy and the trust of the punters it relies on for survival.

You can read Ant Sharwood’s thoughts on the jockey’s punishment here.

And as for Peters - what he did to the Pulver family was despicable.

Sympathy for their relationship dramas is running at a flatline low.

Comments on this piece will close at 8pm Eastern time.

Most commented

61 comments

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    • Super D says:

      05:48am | 21/11/12

      The only reason people give lame excuses is because sometimes the work. After all, these days practically everyone is a victim so is it any wonder that almost everyone tries to play the victim card.

      When every day we witness the mist powerful woman in the nations history playing the victim is it really a surprise that personal responsibility is out of fashion?

    • Nick says:

      08:09am | 21/11/12

      Is there a verb for the moronic introduction of political BS into every discussion, and a noun for the wankers who do it?

    • Borderer says:

      09:18am | 21/11/12

      personal responsibility is out of fashion

      I agree, it doesn’t wash with me either. When I had a relationship break up, I was actually relieved in some instances, sad in others, at no point did I look at an 18 year old girl and think “You know, a fake collar bomb and a ransom note is what you need…”, that’s just messed up.

    • Upnorff says:

      11:36am | 21/11/12

      Nick. Based on what I read in The Punch I believe that verb is ‘acotrel’. To acotrel, I acotrel, he acotrelled.
      Oddly enough, the noun is identical!

    • Nick says:

      12:38pm | 21/11/12

      Yeah, I considered acotrolling and variants thereof, but it isn’t inclusive enough to describe the general phenomenon anymore than super dickwadding would be.  Effed if I know but there’s a few people who could do with a broader view of life in my opinion.

      I agree Borderer…when my best friend and my partner staged a coup together while both myself and his partner were out of town for work I sent him a pretty shitty email and I’ve never spoken to him again but I sure didn’t start collar bombing teenagers.

      I don’t know if personal responsibility is out of fashion or if it’s just that having behaved like a vicious imbecile and finding yourself in court you’ll use every and all excuses in the hope of salvaging some pride and garnering a slightly diminished sentence.

    • egg says:

      01:03pm | 21/11/12

      Super D, has she played the victim today yet, or did I miss it?

      I think I must’ve missed it yesterday, too, come to think of it… or any other day you care to mention.

    • Bear says:

      05:08pm | 21/11/12

      Even you’re a victim Super Dickhead. A ‘victim’ of Labor.

    • jed says:

      07:19am | 21/11/12

      Lawyers aren’t that creative, eh?

      13 years for Peters is a laugh though, I’ve seen less for murder and it’s always less for rape or fiddling kids.

    • Suzanne says:

      07:24am | 21/11/12

      Peters got double the sentence the Police expected.  They were saying 6 - 8 years and he got 13.5.  Community anger lifted it

    • TRBNGR says:

      09:58am | 21/11/12

      You’re right, the courts just needed to assuage the media and the general publics outrage.

      Pretty sure it’ll come down on appeal (was there an immediate appeal? the report/judgement won’t be due for report for a week or so) as the sentence is manifestly erroneous in length, particularly the non-parole period, that’ll get halved or more.

    • marley says:

      11:03am | 21/11/12

      @TRBNGR - out of curiousity, would you know what the average sentencing range would be for this sort of crime?  I gather you think this one is outside the norm, but I’d be interested to know what that norm is.

    • TRBNGR says:

      12:24pm | 21/11/12

      Up to 25 years for the detain for advantage (dependent on level of charge - Basic, Aggravated, Specially aggravated), 10 years for the Aggravated B+E (Max, no-one gets 10 years for that) not sure on trespass, it varies. They are very serious charges.

      Similar situation to this occur more than you’d ever know about (just 99.99999% not with a collar bomb!) and the average sentence is about what was being reported earlier 6 - 8 years, once again, dependent on circumstance, much less, but not usually much more.

    • marley says:

      01:09pm | 21/11/12

      @TRBNGR - thanks.  I must admit, I don’t think I’d really like to see this guy out on parole in four or five years, but if that’s the norm, I guess that’s what will ultimately happen

    • TRBNGR says:

      02:05pm | 21/11/12

      No worries Marley. I don’t see him being let out any time soon, he’ll serve at least 8 as long as the sentence stands and maybe even if it is successfully appealed.

      Just remember, eligibility for parole and being paroled are 2 very different things. Like Mark Chapman, I mean that prick has been eligible for as long as I can remember, but he ain’t going nowhere! Charlie Manson’s been in front of the parole board since 1978!

      But I know what your saying. wink

    • Grey says:

      07:36am | 21/11/12

      “I had to catch myself out,” the court heard Peters said. “I had to lay evidence along the way to trap myself.”

      Hummm,  I still remember Gai Waterhouse’s housekeeper telling a newspaper she had seen a woman driving a car from the Mosman house with a man wearing a balaclava (presumably not a rainbow coloured one, although she did not specifiy).

      It may be Peters was not the only person laying evidence along the way to trap him.

      I must get round to reading Taipan some day, it sounds like a fascinating read.  Carri on.

    • Philosopher says:

      07:50am | 21/11/12

      King Rat is pretty good.

    • Philosopher says:

      07:40am | 21/11/12

      Sounds to me like these men need a reprieve - after all, their evil, grasping wives cunningly fleeced them, turned their children against them and left them broken. Their only crime? To trust women! And we’ve all committed that particular offence. Where’s the justice in these sentences? Clearly they didn’t have Eric, QC, representing them.

    • Rose says:

      09:02am | 21/11/12

      or….....If this is what these men are capable of, imagine the nightmare that their wives may have had to live through. But of course, it still probably wouldn’t have been their own fault, they’re fine upstanding citizens!!!!

    • Borderer says:

      09:37am | 21/11/12

      I had an ex who was a manipulative controlling cow so I sacked her, avoided sex for a month prior so she couldn’t play the “I’m pregnant” card and got the hell out of dodge to the loss of thousands of dollars. I didn’t think about ransoms, illegal gambling or ruining people’s lives, I got drunk a bit but that was about all.
      Oh women can mess you up, it’s how much you let them, but that’s down to your choices, you know like choosing to marry them, choosing to have kids etc, also choosing how you respond. You’re choice, your responsibility.

    • Michael says:

      12:11pm | 21/11/12

      I like your philosophy Borderer, very much.

    • Onlooker says:

      07:46am | 21/11/12

      It is time all these pathetic excuses were not allowed in court. We all have problems in life, but 99.9% of us don’t go out cheat, murder, rape and steal. I have been horrified by the excuses some of these criminals get away with. There is no excuse for these crimes. It is time gullible judges stopped taking lame excuses into account. Perhaps legislation is in order, the victims seem to be forgotten

    • Rose says:

      09:11am | 21/11/12

      It’s time we looked at these family and personal problems in a new way. They do not and never will, excuse criminal behaviour. It’s OK to acknowledge that, because of the personal crises a person may feel like crap, but it’s not OK to assume that feeling like crap takes away your sense of right and wrong.
      There are few mental illnesses that can lead people to lose that sense of right and wrong and to behave in ways not acceptable, sometimes even horrific ways, but generally speaking, being depressed, anxious or stressed is not even anywhere near the same ball park. Being criminally insane is one thing, and can only be dealt with by detaining people in appropriate mental health facilities. Being criminal is different, and should be dealt with without allowing people to excuse their behaviour with over exaggerated tales of woe.

    • HC says:

      10:24am | 21/11/12

      @Onlooker

      But there may be a justification that reduces the severity of the crime or even completely negates it.  That’s why judges and lawyers allow people to provide reasons for their actions.

      A person steals a loaf of bread in your ‘utopian’ world, the reason for the theft is irrelevant and he goes to jail, in the current world if he steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family he gets a slap on the wrist, maybe pays a small fine.  That’s justice, your ideals are not, they’re vengeance.

      The only reason why you’re horrified by the excuses given by felons who get away with various criminal acts is because you lack the understanding, wisdom, balance, context and most importantly, mercy required to make a just decision.  Empathy seems lacking too.

    • Rose says:

      11:21am | 21/11/12

      HC, read what phillb wrote below. These two crimes can’t be passed over because of the men’s problems, there was no way either deed was going to make the problems go away. Stealing a loaf of bread to feed one’s family may be wrong legally, but it does go to solving the problem of not having enough food to eat, therefore it goes towards justification.
      There is a big difference between a crime committed because it’s the only way a person knows to solve a certain problem, and a crime committed which lashes out at some one not even connected to the original problem or in Oliver’s case, breaking rules which are in place to protect the integrity of his industry.

    • HC says:

      12:04pm | 21/11/12

      @Rose

      And nor should they be justified by their excuses, but Onlooker’s not specifically talking about these 2 cases, he’s talking about all cases, effectively wanting to negate a defendant’s chance to defend their actions.

      Neither of these men got away with their behaviour, indeed Peters didn’t even get any sympathy from the judge (seems like a good decision too) but both men got a chance to state their case and to try and defend their actions as is their right in a civilised country.  Onlooker seems to want to take that away from criminals because they are criminals and in my opinion that seems barbaric.

    • Onlooker says:

      01:11pm | 21/11/12

      HC my 2 and a half year old niece was raped by a her stepfather, he claimed he was stressed at the time because he could not find work.. Well I can you mate my family felt no sympathy at all for that man, we felt for that tiny little girl who stayed in hospital for months. The judge took his excuses into account and he received only a few years in jail. I am all for the victims and their families .. there is no excuse. And who are you to judge anyone by a few typed words.. for a start I am female and secondly I think your barbaric to allow them have excuses for violence

    • Philosopher says:

      02:24pm | 21/11/12

      Onlooker - what a horrible story! I hope your niece is okay.

    • acotrel says:

      07:46am | 21/11/12

      As far as Damien Oliver is concerned, what do you think the jockeys are loudly discussing between themselves as they race around the side of the track away from the punters ?  If you want to back a winner, back the horse with the rider who is making a comeback after injury.
      It is a mug’s game !

    • BJA says:

      07:46am | 21/11/12

      I can’t believe he got 13 years for that. You can rape and murder and get half that sentence. I wouldn’t be surprised if that sentence is reduced on appeal. Lets face it, the only reason it was so harsh was because she was white, rich and the media made a big deal out of it. The judge couldn’t appear to be weak.

    • Philosopher says:

      08:14am | 21/11/12

      what’s more, the girl was probably granted an extension on her Year 12 exams. ICB - was this a setup to improve her chances of getting into Law/Economics??? Those North Shore preppies will stop at nothing!!!!!

    • lingo says:

      08:52am | 21/11/12

      I don’t think so.
      The whole thing was dreadful. To break in to a home, tie a child up and place a collar bomb around her neck?
      Anyone involved with kipnap, extortion, blackmail etc should be harshly dealt with.

    • Rose says:

      09:04am | 21/11/12

      The 13 years is appropriate, it’s the other sentences which are far too lenient!!!

    • Economist says:

      11:25am | 21/11/12

      @Philosopher, worse than that, she’s indicated she wants to study Art’s. Like we need more philosophers! wink

    • tez says:

      12:01pm | 21/11/12

      13 Years is a message to wouldbe extortionist don’t target rich kids

    • Philosopher says:

      01:59pm | 21/11/12

      ha Economist, philosophers are better at predicting financial depressions than economists… just read Galbraith smile

    • Punch Drunk says:

      08:23am | 21/11/12

      Swap Maddie Pulver as the victim with an indiginous girl from a housing commission flat in Redfern. Wonder what sentence he would’ve received then.

    • Borderer says:

      09:48am | 21/11/12

      What on earth would you hope to get as ransom from an Indiginous family in a housing commission flat in Redfern?

      I get your trying to make a point about the media getting on the band wagon and it can seem like it’s all because she’s white, pretty and rich but people don’t ransom the poor, there’s just return in it. Rich people have home security because they have valuables, rich people get kidnapped because they have money to pay the ransom. Why does Brad Pitt have have body guards and security details and his brother Doug doesn’t? Super rich v’s Ordinary guy?

    • I hate pies says:

      08:25am | 21/11/12

      They come out with these excuses because they work; how many times have you hear “I’ve had a bad upbringing, that’s why I stole ten cars”, or “I need my car to get to work so I can feed my sick grandma so don’t take my licence off me”, or “He’s resmorseful (snigger, snigger) and he has a good chance of rehabilitation”.
      The same old tricks work every time, because they’ve worked out how to corner the judges.

    • Craig says:

      08:38am | 21/11/12

      I missed a real opportunity when my first marriage brokedown.

      I was distraught and stressed as well, but failed to commit premeditated fraud or kidnapping and extortion. Doh!

      If only I’d known that marital stress was a justification for committing crimes…

    • Kika says:

      09:13am | 21/11/12

      I’m not surprised. He strapped a bomb to the neck of a young girl - wasted the police’s time and resources. If he was a Muslim that would have been called terrorism.

    • Knemon says:

      10:17am | 21/11/12

      “He strapped a bomb to the neck”

      What type of bomb was it Kika?

    • TracyH says:

      10:55am | 21/11/12

      Knemon - all that is relevant is the perception it was a bomb , the victim was told it was a bomb, as were the police. That is the point. To create terror.

    • Kika says:

      11:36am | 21/11/12

      Yes, a fake bomb - but he made every effort for Maddie, her family and the police to believe it was real. That’s the point.

      How about I drop a fake bomb in front of a bank in central Sydney or Melbourne. Should I get off lightly just because it was fake?

    • Michael says:

      12:08pm | 21/11/12

      Using a fake gun to rob a bank is no less an armed robbery than if you used a real gun. The intent was to have your victim believe it was real and have them behave accordingly, a criminal offence.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      02:11pm | 21/11/12

      If he were a Muslim it would have been brushed off as just ‘a part of his culture’ or some such.

    • Pattem says:

      05:01pm | 21/11/12

      And didn’t you know, because it was a ‘fake’ bomb, the whole story was written up as a ‘hoax’.  Try telling that to Madeleine.

      I think our national journalists need to look up the meaning of the word ‘hoax’, for what transpired was definitely no hoax.  There was so much more to Peters’ intent than simple deception - try, creating fear or terror. 

      A hoax is like the Boy Who Cried Wolf.  It is usually a waste of time, effort and money, with the culprit usually stating: “No harm, no foul.”  Madeleine’s predicament was nothing of the sort.

    • Tubesteak says:

      09:57am | 21/11/12

      Excuses do not justify behaviour. They give insight into the “why”.  They do not provide absolution.

      But this could give us the opportunity to analyse ways of preventing the “why” from happening in order to prevent someone from becoming this desperate and doing this

    • Pattem says:

      05:54pm | 21/11/12

      @Tubesteak, sure, but then there are at least two types of excuse, neither of which bring about absolution.

      1. The reasoned excuse - the explanation behind the motive.
      2. The illegitimate excuse - the excuse that tries to shift blame or reduce culpability.

      Maybe, as a lawyer Tubesteak, you can tell me if there is proper legalese for these.

      I think the problem is where the excuse can significantly sway a judge’s decision as to severity of sentence.  I’ve seen lame-arse excuses which had a perp’s sentence reduced from prison time to a suspended sentence without fine.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      10:01am | 21/11/12

      “I was drunk, Your Honour”, “I was having marital problems, Your Honour”
      “I was sodomised as a child, Your Honour, & that is why I inflict such pain of 5 & 6 year-olds”, “It’s Not my fault, Your Honour, though I’m an adult, I did not know what I was doing”. “I did it, Your Honour, but I am not responsible - my partner, child, dog, cow, cat made me do it”. “My client had her/his hair pulled when he was 5 by another 5 year-old, that’s why she/he lit that fire which caused thae bushfire which killed 100s & destroyed billions of dollars worth of property”. “My client was depressed, Your Honour”. “He looked at me, Your Honour, so I killed him”
      The excuses go on & on. Lawyers make millions out of them. Offenders get the kid glove treatment, a smack on the wrist & sent home to re-offend.
      For every day an offender causes another person distress as a result of their criminal activity they should get a Full Year in Prison.
      No Time off for that oxymoron of oxymorons “Good Behaviour”.
      In prison you are hardly likely to have access to a 5 or 6 year-old to sodomise. Nor are you likely to have access to someone’s home, break-in & steal their property are you?
      No parole. You gets your sentence, you serve your time & serve it in full.

    • Onlooker says:

      01:19pm | 21/11/12

      Well said Robert

    • NightStalker says:

      10:10am | 21/11/12

      Bullshit for both!  Peters needed 22 on top and 18 before parole.  Oliver…well he needs a lot more time to cool his heels I reckon he should have got 3 to 5.

    • Phillb says:

      10:27am | 21/11/12

      LIke I tell me 3 year old son, there is a difference between a reason and an excuse.
      A reason is why you did something without trying to blame someone/thing else and accept the blame.  Even if the reason is a pretty poor reason.
      An excuse is what you give when you are not taking any responsibilty and think it is not your fault.
      These to are giving very poor excuses and need to man up and accept their mistake.

    • Joseph Logan says:

      11:01am | 21/11/12

      It is all very well to label as “lame” the excuses two different men, in two different states used, for two different cases.  Please someone, anyone show me one woman in Court on any case, where she and/or her lawyers have not used similar or other excuses? Just one! please?  I have seen on several occasions where a woman is on charges of murder, manslaughter, fraud, embezzlement - where a Judge refers her to a psychiatrist or psychologist before she has time to say ” not guilty your Honour” - but please can anyone just give me ONE , not a hundred or six, just ONE example of not a ” lame excuse”?

    • St. Michael says:

      11:40am | 21/11/12

      “I stabbed the man because he had broken into my house and was threatening to rape my wife and kill me.  I am 96 years old and I was raised in a household where we believe you look after what is yours and you do not cower before thugs.”

      That good enough for you?

    • St. Michael says:

      12:38pm | 21/11/12

      Or, how about: “The man raped my daughter three times in one night.  When she told me about it the next day I lost all control, grabbed a baseball bat, drove around to his house, and beat the living shit out of him for it.”

    • Black Dynamite says:

      11:17am | 21/11/12

      Just goes to show in the poker game of life women are the rake! They are the .... rake!

      Black Dynamite

    • Ross says:

      12:03pm | 21/11/12

      Many years ago a bastard kidnapped a little boy whose parents were lucky enough, to win one of the first Opera house lotteries.he was caught and received a very stiff sentence. A message was sent we the public don’t like that behavior. Now as it happens another stiff sentence for a new type of bastard act.. in Australia we don’t like kidnaps or extortion attempts against our kids .

    • Anjuli says:

      12:14pm | 21/11/12

      I am sick of I had a terrible childhood or I have been through a lot of distress in the last couple of years. Hell they should have had a the childhood i and others had in my era, the thing it taught us there is right and wrong . It is about time society made these wrong doers take responsibly of their actions and give them jail time like they do in the USA .Bring in no tolerance even for these party goers who trash the place and think it is fun do so, that is the beginning of lawlessness and anarchy.

    • Ralph says:

      05:03pm | 21/11/12

      If he did the same to a checkout chick in Broadmeadows it would be a $50 fine.

 

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